Natasha Martinez of Chino Hills will be departing June 27 for the national Miss USA® competition to be televised on NBC. Thousands watched as Martinez was crowned Miss California USA® 2015 on January 11 at the Long Beach Terrace Theater. Martinez is a graduate of Chapman University and is currently the on air host a KDOC-TV. She is a former Los Angeles Laker Girl and was previously a princess and parade performer at Disneyland. The Miss USA® competition will be held at in Baton Rouge, LA and will air live on NBC on Sunday, July 12, 2015. Fifty-one young women from across the country will travel to compete for the coveted title.
Nearly 200 women from across California will be participating in this year’s MISS CALIFORNIA USA competition with the hopes of advancing to the national competitions. The winner of MISS CALIFORNIA USA® will go on to compete at the national MISS USA® competition which will be televised live on NBC.
This year, five current or former professional cheerleaders will be competing in the event.
Shelbi Buchholz – Miss Greater San Diego, San Diego Charger Girl
Chanelle Riggan – Miss Beverly Hills, Anaheim Duck Power Player
Jenny Ting – Miss Diamond Crest, Former Laker Girl and Charger Girl
Alexis Swanstrom – Miss Del Mar, Former Charger Girl
Brittany Wagner – Miss Universal City, Former Clippers Cheerleader and Ontario Fury Dancer
I have been fortunate to photograph four of these amazing women: Shelbi, Jenny, Alexis, and Brittany.
The MISS CALIFORNIA USA® pageant will be held in Long Beach, California at the Terrace Theater on January 9-11, 2015 and is open to the public. Tickets for all three pageant events are available via ticketmaster.com.
For more information on the Miss California USA pageant, please visit their website here.
This month is our Tenth Anniversary and to celebrate we’re posting some of our all-time favorite photos.
Laker Girl Jessica in 2012.
The Lakers Girls are the gold standard of NBA cheerleading and whenever I get a chance to photograph them, I try to do so. I have been able to photograph them a few times over the years, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so because of the league’s camera policy.
So in 2012, I was able to photograph the Laker Girls at an L.A. D-fenders game and I was able to snap several great photos of Laker Girl Jessica, but this one image is my favorite. I guess you can say I am a sucker for a girl with beautiful eyes and a great smile.
David Tyau, National Correspondent
Victory! She made it, and the rest is history.
By GUY CLIFTON
January 3, 2014
The sportscaster, actress, model, NBA scout, wounded warrior advocate, animal rights advocate, entrepreneur, and former San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and Golden State Warriors cheerleader keeps a whirlwind schedule.
“I’ve always been one of those people that likes to have a ton of irons in the fire,” Laflin said recently at the home of her parents, Ross and Bunnie Laflin, in Spanish Springs. “You only live once, right, so try to do as much as you can.”
She has fit quite a lot into her 37 years, much of it in support of two passions in her life — supporting the military and animal welfare.
“Coming from a military family, my love for the military started at a very young age,” Laflin said. “Both my grandfathers served in World War II. My grandfather on my mom’s side was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. He was in the Baatan Death March, a POW. My dad’s dad was in the Army Air Corps. I have an uncle who was a career Marine. My dad was a career law enforcement officer.”
Throughout her time as a cheerleader for the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, she participated USO tours, to entertain the troops overseas — assignments that took her to Bosnia, Germany, Korea, Japan and points around the world. She continued to go after her cheerleading days, often emceeing USO events, including nine trips to Iraq and Afghanistan.
She spent last Christmas in Kuwait and Iraq with the troops.
Her love of animals started in childhood as well. When she had a birthday party, she would ask for donations to animal shelters instead of presents. She rode horses and competed in barrel racing.
She was always rescuing animals and bringing them home — a practice she continued today. Her parents’ ranch home, overlooking the Spanish Springs Valley, is home to eight dogs, two cats, four goats and three chickens — all rescued by Bonnie-Jill.
In 2010, she was able to combine both her passions, starting a charitable organization called Hounds and Heroes. It is a national nonprofit dedicated to lift the spirits and morale of active, wounded, and veteran military troops, and to increase awareness about the cruelty to animals.
Using her connections with the Cowboys and 49ers and the Los Angeles Lakers, where she worked for five years as the only female scout in the NBA, Laflin arranges outings for wounded troops to NFL and NBA games.
She also visits wounded troops in hospitals and sends care packages overseas.
At the same time, Laflin includes her dedication to rescuing animals, in this case dogs.
“We’re rescuing dogs from the shelters, training them and then pairing them up with a service member who needs them, whether it’s as a therapy or a service dog,” she said. “There are different needs. Some are for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), some are because they’re an amputee. There are different things. The way we look at it is we’re saving two lives.”
The charity is Laflin’s unpaid part-time job. She also works full time as a sports broadcaster and also does some acting when time allows. (She appeared in the TV series “Baywatch” and “Ally McBeal” in music videos and, just recently, was on an episode of the Comedy Central show “Key and Peel,” portraying a news anchor.)
After graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in broadcast journalism, (working as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader at the time), she worked for ESPN as a correspondent on the morning program “Cold Pizza.” She also had a show called “Speed World” covering motor sports.
She’s now an independent broadcaster in Los Angeles, and also produces a sports show in China, traveling there ever two to three months. She’s big on social media in the United States with more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. She’s a virtual rock star in China, which has its own social media, with millions of followers.
She also has her own line of clothing, and other ventures, including a charitable calendar for her fans to raise money for her charities.
“If I could just do charity work, it’s all I would do,” she said. “That’s probably what really fulfills me the most is giving back. I have a lot of great support from the teams that I’ve worked with from the Lakers to the Niners to the Cowboys. Anytime I reach out and say, hey, I need to bring five wounded warriors to a game, they say, ‘Bonnie-Jill, whatever you need.'”
Her ultimate career goal: to be owner of the San Francisco Giants, her favorite team.
In the meantime, Laflin enjoys jumping off the fast track whenever possible and staying with her parents.
“For me to be able to come to my parents’ house and just relax, I just love it,” she said. “My parents have all kinds of animals, all rescues, so it’s nice to decompress. Living in L.A., it’s very fast-paced, very high-strung and stressful. It’s good to get away from the hustle and bustle.”
Individual profiles and photo galleries are now online. Click here to learn more about the ladies on the team!
Remember Leah Vandale from the Laker Girls and the Patriots Cheerleaders? Well, she’s got a new gig. She reported to the WWE Performance Center on Tuesday to start training for her new job as a WWE NXT Diva.
I will be honest, I don’t know much about the WWE. But from what I understand, the Divas are the female talent in the league, but not all of them wrestle. WWE NXT seems to be the farm league for the regular WWE. So Leah, congrats on the new job!
Leah, who uses the stage name Van Damme, has wrestling roots. Her Dad, Paul Van Dale, is/was a big name in the industry.
Leah is the third NBA dancer (that I know of) to venture into the world of professional wrestling. She is preceded by Clippers Spirit alum Eve Marie Torres, and former Miami Heat Dancer Layla El (who some of you may recall from that season of Project Runway when they had the WWE challenge, and the designer who put Layla an orange one piece got auf’d for basically making a bathing suit).
Photos! Video! Other stuff! Click here to check it out!
2013 LG veterans, trying to stay on the team.
So, while I’ve been waiting for the Lakers to post something (anything!) about this year’s audition, I did some googling to find out what the Laker Girls have been up to off the court. I found a few performance videos that were a real hoot. A couple of them are from Joe and Grace’s wedding. I have no clue who Joe and Grace are. I assume they’re Laker fans. The Laker Girls were excellent, although I very much doubt this is what they had in mind when they auditioned for the team. I’m sure those visions of purple and gold did not include dancing to the clean version of “F*** You” with a local Girl Scout troupe. For darn sure they didn’t include pumping up a lethargic crowd of partygoers in a Hilton ballroom in Long Beach. I don’t know how these Laker Girls do it. Personally, I’d be uncomfortably aware that me and mah girlz were the only thing standing between the audience and the buffet.
As a wise person once said, every gift comes with a price. Clearly this is one of those tradeoffs. You wanna ball with Kobe, you also gotta roll with gramma. And the Girl Scouts.
Taylour Paige, star of “Hit the Floor” performing with the LGs two years ago, during the five minutes she was on the team. Depending on who you speak to, Taylour quit lakers because (a) she was over committed, or (b) she wanted to focus on her acting career. Either way, I’m not a fan. I’ve known too many girls who got cut from Lakers, to have much love for someone who made the team but quit because she was too busy with other things. As if Lisa Estrada didn’t explain to you in extreme detail exactly what kind of commitment you were signing up for.
If you ask me, Kyle is the best one on that show.
Sorry. That was kind of mean, wasn’t it?
But I digress.
The NBA Nation Tour was in Los Angeles this weekend and on Sunday, it was the Laker Girls turn to wow the fans in attendance. It’s a rare opportunity to see them up close and personal and even rarer that you can see them performing in a venue other than the Staples Center. So, I decided to make a return engagement to Universal City Walk to photograph the most renown dance team in the NBA.
Continue reading The Laker Girls at the 2013 NBA Nation Tour
Considering the fact that the Laker Girls are the most famous dance team in the NBA, it’s surprising that there’s so few photos of them on the Lakers website. They hardly ever have photos of the team performing. Not to diss the LGs, but other teams have so much more than that. If I could make up any job I wanted to do, I would totally take over the Laker Girl section of the Lakers website. And their twitter. And I’d totally set up an official LG page on Facebook. And it would be awesome. I’m talking photos, videos, downloads, cool graphics, and all sorts of other goodies. But until that day comes, I am content with finding good, current photos of the team. I found this set on Flickr. I don’t know where they are or why they’re there, but it’s this year’s team, and that’s good enough for me! Click here to check it out.
Rookie Laker Girls Melissa and Rebekah
Spurs Silver Dancer Anncell is in her rookie season in San Antonio
There is the short version of Spurs Silver Dancer Anncell’s move from Los Angeles to San Antonio. Last year in LA, Anncell decided at the beginning of the week to try out in San Antonio for the Silver Dancers, and by Friday, Anncell was jetting to San Antonio, and by Tuesday she was a Silver Dancer. But the reality of Anncell’s back story is that this weeklong whirlwind only happened because of Anncell’s lifelong commitment, drive, and devotion to pro cheer, with hard work and determination to always improve every aspect of her skills. Her positive spirit opens up horizons that most others would not glimpse, much less pursue. Anncell shared with UltimateCheerleaders her path from aspiring pro dancer to ChivaGirl to Laker Girl to Silver Dancer, with a path that included auditions that ranged from disappointing to those with exhilarating conclusions. But like her NBA moves, no matter what, Anncell is in perpetual motion, and with an ever-present smile. And we just love love love any pro dancer who lists UltimateCheerleaders as their favorite website on their bio. You will see why everyone who encounters Anncell soon adds her to their own personal list of “Favorites.”
Anncell was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lived there until she moved to San Antonio last year. When asked if from birth, she was ‘born to perform,’ Anncell laughs, “I’m not sure if I was ‘born to perform,’ but if you ask my family or friends I’m sure they would beg to differ. Let’s just say I’m very energetic.”
And from day one, Anncell’s relationship to her parents has been truly special. “I cannot even begin to say how truly AMAZING my parents are,” Anncell explains. “They have been so supportive in each and every area of my life and are my biggest cheerleaders. Although I thought they were too strict when I was younger, I now appreciate them and all the opportunities they’ve afforded me. I’m so thankful for their unconditional love, guidance, and support.”
After a season with the Laker Girls, Anncell now dances for the Spurs
“My favorite feature about my mom is her wisdom,” Anncell continues. “No matter what’s going on in my life, I know I can count on her to give me sound advice. My dad is very corny and goofy but that’s definitely what I love most about him.” So what traits from her amazing parents does the amazing Anncell attribute to them? “As far as my personality is concerned, I’m a mix of my mom’s sass and wisdom and my dad’s generosity and sense of humor,” Anncell answers.
Dancing was not always ‘love at first tap’ for Anncell. “My love for dance did not start in the typical way,” Anncell explains. “When my mom was growing up, she really wanted to be a dancer but her family couldn’t afford it. When she was a senior in high school, she finally was able to be a cheerleader, and went on to cheer in college and even joined a dance company. Because of her love for dance, she put me in dance classes at a very early age. To be completely honest I HATED it. I would cry on the way to Saturday morning dance classes because all I wanted to do was stay at home and watch cartoons, or go to the mall with my friends. I even went to a performing arts high school, so I had to dance at school, too. I really didn’t apply myself and didn’t realize at the time how much I loved dance because I was too focused on the fact that I didn’t want to do it.”
But once she could choose not to dance, Anncell made a surprising choice. “When I turned eighteen and started college, I had my way,” Anncell remembers. “I no longer had to dance. By the end of my first semester I felt like something was missing in my life, so I signed up for tap class as an elective. Taking the tap class is when it hit me. I knew what was missing. I missed the feeling of performing and expressing myself through movement! I missed it so much I ended up joining the cheerleading squad.”
Continue reading Pro cheer siren’s call to be a Spurs Silver Dancer draws Anncell to a whole new world in San Antonio